When the Secret Wars tie-ins were first announced, the most common expectation was that the various sequels would be fairly close continuations of the themes and plots from the original stories. Beginning with the final page of issue one and becoming increasingly more evident throughout the following installments, Brian Michael Bendis and Andrea Sorrentino’s Old Man Logan is a radical departure from Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s seminal Wolverine story.
McNiven’s style was was that of sharp, even lines, minimally placed only where they needed to be for his inker and colorist to flesh out the details. Sorrentino’s finds its distinctive aesthetic from rough linework and bold shading, while simultaneously relying even more heavily on the coloring to express his full artistic vision. This issue opens with the use of sepia tones to convey Logan’s nostalgia as he looks upon modern New York with eyes that’d not seen it in decades. It is filled towards the end with sprawling blank white spaces, Logan having reached a small measure of Zen in the aftermath of his journey.
The writing too is a departure. Millar’s arc was immaculately paced, slowly raising the stakes and peeling back the mystery of how Logan’s pacifistic life had come about, the ever increasing external action of the story’s events matching beat for beat with the internal psychological strain they had upon Logan. Bendis’ limited series, alternatively, is a series of loosely connected vignettes which are less concerned with telling a self contained story and more with establishing Old Man Logan as a denizen of the main Marvel Universe post-Secret Wars, this issue more so than even those preceding it.
Which is not to say that Bendis’ Old Man Logan has not been a worthwhile ride. But it has been an incomplete one which does not stand on its own apart from Secret Wars and the upcoming relaunch. If this series has has a villain at all, it is the oft mentioned but never seen god-Doom. But any confrontation between Logan and Doom in this climactic issue is entirely off panel, relegated to expository dialog and allusive images.
In fact, much of this issue can be described as exposition in lieu of plot. Logan mostly sits or stands around quietly as his fellow mutants narrate to one another (and the reader) what Logan must be feeling. There is a “reunion” with another character in the Wolverine family (these days ballooning to nearly the size of the Bat-family) that provides Logan was far more of an emotional response than it does the reader, given that there was no build up or pay-off surrounding it.
That scene, just another vignette among many in this series, is emblematic of Bendis’ Old Man Logan as a whole: a failed attempt to pull emotional resonance out of not characters or plot, but rather the reader’s knowledge of and appreciation for Marvel’s past continuity and future publishing plans. It was a fun failure, redeemed to an extent by Sorrentino’s art, but it will ultimately not stand the test of time next to the story arc which inspired it.